S1c Claude Edward Rich
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S1c Claude Edward Rich
Claude Edward Rich enlisted in the Navy in September 1940 because he wanted a better job.
He had left high school the previous year — completing 9th grade — and went to work driving a truck for a laundry in Palm Beach, Florida. He earned $234 for 26 weeks of work in 1939. His father and older brother also drove trucks and his sister was a laundry worker. Combined, the Rich family earned $1,759 that year to support their household of five.
Claude Rich was interested in radios, and he hoped the Navy might help him advance in that field. He and a friend, Lester Covar, had even taken radio instruction from a police officer, Ralph Hollis, who set up the Palm Beach police radio system.
Mr. Rich completed his Navy training in Norfolk, Virginia, and on Dec. 4, 1940 went aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. He became a seaman first class.
By chance, policeman Hollis joined the crew of the Arizona in September 1941. Mr. Hollis had served in the Navy in the 1920s, then enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He was called to active duty in May 1941 and granted a leave of absence by the police department. Mr. Hollis was a lieutenant in the Arizona’s communications department.
Both Mr. Hollis and his former student were killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
Mr. Rich, born Feb. 4, 1922, was the son of Jesse R. Rich, a fisherman, and Lulu Baxter Rich, a homemaker. The Depression was hard on the family from the start. A 1930 letters-to-Santa column in The Palm Beach Post included one from Claude that said, “My father has no work so I hope you won’t forget me. I have a brother and sister older than I am and I hope you won’t forget them either.”
The son attended Northboro Junior High School, where he competed on the tag football team, and then Palm Beach High School. News accounts show that he was active in youth programs at Northwood Baptist Church.
A younger cousin, George Mason, described him years later as “a clean-cut person. Big gob of curly hair.” Claude taught him to ride a bike, he remembered, and took him to the movies. Mr. Mason enlisted in the Marines in January 1942, soon after his 17th birthday.
Mr. Rich’s brother, Jesse Jr., served in the Marines from August 1941 through July 1944.
Lester Covar, the friend who took the radio class with Mr. Rich, joined the Coast Guard in the summer of 1942. After the war he became a West Palm Beach police officer.
Sources: Reporter Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post wrote excellent articles about Mr. Rich in 1991 and 2014. Other sources include: Palm Beach Post articles dating to 1938; Navy and Marine muster rolls; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs death file; Census. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.